NEWPORT, R.I. — It was hot inside Rodgers Recreation Center at Salve Regina University Tuesday, where the Celtics  held their first practice of the 2010-11 season.
“Way too warm, felt like the [Boston] Garden in the ’80s,” said Doc Rivers , who played in his share of summer playoff games vs. the Celtics during his years with the Hawks.
“It a little humid in here, a little warm,” said Jermaine O’Neal , who felt the players did a “pretty good” job dealing with the heat.
Rivers felt that the temperature inside the gym — best guess was somewhere in the low 90s — “didn’t help” the players during a three-plus hour session, but he wasn’t going to make excuses.
“I think that we’re not in great shape, personally,” said Rivers. “I don’t think that we’ve come back in the condition that we want. So we’re going to have to come back in better shape.”
— It was the first day as a member of the Celtics for both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal. Rivers was pleased with the efforts of both.
“Shaq was great, actually. He looked fine,” said Rivers, who when asked about Jermaine O’Neal noted, “What did I see [from him]? He’s going to help us.
Both O’Neals were seen practicing with the first team [the media was allowed to watch the last 20 minutes or so of the session] but it was Shaquille O’Neal  who spent some time with the second unit ‘ “The White Team” ‘ that also included Delonte West , Nate Robinson  and Marquis Daniels .
“My game is real limited,” Shaq said when asked if he preferred to start or come off the bench. “I know to look for [Kevin] Garnett and to look for my shooters. I’ve always played with great big men and great shooters, so it’s no different.
“I’m not going to be playing 30-40 minutes a game, just 20-30.”
Jermaine O’Neal didn’t seem concerned about the starter/reserve situation, either.
“Whatever is given to me,” O’Neal answered when asked what would be the ideal role for him.”I’m new to this team ‘ this team has a lot of players, a proven team that got to the [NBA] finals  last year. I don’t have a predetermined role. I’m sure as training camp continues and the preseason goes on Doc is going to give us our roles.”
— Kendrick Perkins  (ACL surgery) isn’t expected back to the lineup until at least January, but he was at practice Tuesday, shooting some free throws and watching some of the action next to Rivers on the sideline.
‘I’m sure it was hard, it was hard for me to watch practice at times,” Rivers said regarding Perkins. “That’s going to be tough for Perk. I’ve been there. That’s going to be really tough, a tough thing to do. He’s a great kid, he’ll get through it, but it’s not going to be easy.’
— OK, does Semih Erden speak (or understand) English? This is the kind of stuff we need to know, if only to tell if he’s laughing with or at Nate Robinson when they stand next to each other during timeouts.
Doc Rivers: “Well, [the communication] went the way it goes with all the players — I told him a lot, and I don’t think he understood anything [laughter]. I don’t know with Semih, I think he gets it because he was doing what we said. But you can’t take that for granted. He does have an interpreter, who didn’t do much. I told him ‘If you have to stand next to him, stand next to him.’
Paul Pierce : “Semih understands more English than you probably think. He sat next to me at dinner last night and I had a full conversation with him.”
— Pierce also shot down the idea that the Celtics went on cruise control during the second half of the regular season to rest for the playoffs.
“A lot has been put on that we just tried to get through the season –rest the guys — but we just didn’t play well,” said Pierce of the 27-27 finish to the 2009-10 season. “It was that we were hurt, we just didn’t play well. This year we want to play better, especially at home. We want to have a better playoff seed. We don’t give games away — people think Doc is going to sit there, rest guys and give games away? I think we are trying to win as many games as possible, try to get home-court advantage.”
— University of Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel was at practice to observe the Celtics staff.
— Garnett looked “phenomenal” and “explosive” according to Rivers. One year ago, Garnett was still recovering from off-season knee surgery, but he enters 2010-11 with optimism.
“I feel better, obviously, a year later,” Garnett said. “But my body feels good, only took one rest today. A good day, a good day … just feels good to be out here, feeling fresh and motivated.”